Remember how everyone didn’t have a clue who Morbius was? Well the strength of Marvel comic book films still brought the Jared Leto vampire story close to $86 million in profit, so they went back to drawing board once again. Recently announced this past month, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny has been set to play El Muerto, a Mexican luchador character almost as obscure as it gets in comics.
For some background as to how to this decision was made, it’s important to note that although Spider-Man (Tom Holland) has appeared in many of Disney’s Marvel films, the rights to Spider-Man’s universe of characters is still owned by Sony.
Because they have less to work with than the entire Marvel universe, they do movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home (which created a kind of Avengers: Infinity War with just previous Spider-Man films) and Venom, or Morbius (which focus on a Spider-man villain-turned-antihero without the need of the ol’ web-slinger himself on camera).
The problem with this formula, however, is that a lot of Spider-Man characters simply just don’t work with the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler removed from the plot. Thus, we dig down in the barrel once more and pull out El Muerto, a Mexican wrestler who has only ever appeared in two issues of a 2006 spin-off Spider-Man comic, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #6-7.
Spider-Man has a long history fighting wrestlers in the ring, however, dating all the way back to his debut in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15. After gaining his newfound abilities, he tests them out against wrestler Crusher Hogan, who challenges anyone to take him on for $100.
Though Spider-Man wins the encounter, it leads to the fateful event where he lets a thief escape–the same man who later kills Uncle Ben during a botched robbery. The scene was portrayed in Spider-Man (2002) when Tobey McGuire fights a wrestler named Bonesaw McGraw. “With great power there must also come great responsibility!” You know the deal.
Over 40 years later, writer Peter David paid homage to Spidey’s origins with another wrestling match against his new character, El Muerto. Set up by the Spider-Man-hating J. Jonah Jameson, Mexican luchador El Muerto challenges Spider-Man to a wrestling match for $1 million. Spidey accepts, hoping to give the money away to charity, but little does he know that El Muerto is actually a super-powered individual like himself.
Granted the mask of El Muerto by another Mexican luchador with supernatural abilities named El Dorado, Juan-Carlos Sanchez receives superhuman strength and durability, which are only enhanced by his talents in the ring.
Little is known about El Dorado and the ties that bind Juan-Carlos Sanchez to the El Muerto mask, especially since both characters have only ever appeared in their two-issue debut story, but the magical mask appears to be passed down from generation to generation.
In a meeting with El Dorado, a young Juan-Carlos and the previous El Muerto, his father Marcus Estrada de la García, are retold the rules of the mask, and how you must fight for ownership of it once you become of age.
El Dorado attempts to murder Juan-Carlos after he refuses to take part in the ritual, and his father dies in order to protect him. The El Muerto mask, thusly, transfers to Juan-Carlos Sanchez anyway, and El Dorado grants him ten years to train and unmask another superhero in the ring or he’ll come to kill him once again.
Why, you ask? I couldn’t tell you, but it does lead to El Muerto’s standoff in the wrestling ring with Spider-Man, whom he tries to defeat and unmask. It’s pretty silly, and also short-lived, but I never said it was necessarily a good story or worthy of a major motion picture.
Anyway, after Spider-Man is victorious (because he cheats, surprisingly), El Dorado comes to kill El Muerto, who fights him off long enough for Spider-Man to create a chemical substance that dissolves Dorado’s golden armor. The end, and we’ve never heard from El Muerto since.
Presumably the character was a homage to a Mexican comic book character of the same name created by Javier Hernandez back in 1998, but I don’t think anyone has ever asked to confirm. That El Muerto, an undead luchador, received a 2007 independent film adaptation starring Wilmer Valderrama.
No plot details have been announced regarding Bad Bunny’s upcoming portrayal of the obscure Spider-Man antihero, however, or if any supporting characters will also appear in the Sony Marvel film.
As of 2021, Bad Bunny has since become something of a WWE wrestler himself as well, making appearances on Monday Night Raw, WrestleMania 37, and the 2022 Royal Rumble.
“I still don’t believe it,” Bad Bunny said in an interview with The View hosts. “It’s huge. It’s amazing. I’m very confused. Like, really? I’m gonna be part of the Marvel Universe.”
He’ll be the first Latino superhero in the MCU–a character he allegedly selected himself from Spider-Man’s vast rogues gallery.
“I’m very excited, happy and proud,” Bad Bunny continued. “I think people are gonna be proud about my work.”